Capture Your Grief Day 23: Their Name/Photo

I have recently written a post about Skye’s story, it can be found here:

https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/skyes-story/

 

Elizabeth “Skye” Champion

September 25, 2008 – October 13, 2008

Until we reach…

Her very first picture, just minutes old, and the only time I ever saw her smiling.

Capture Your Grief Day 22: Place of Care

As I’ve said before, I was pregnant with Skye out in Colorado and she spent her entire life in Kentucky, but we now live in Tennessee and I have no pictures of her place of care or birth, none that I’d like to represent this post any way. Instead, I’m going a little outside the box and posting a picture of the place that held her the longest and cared for her the most tenderly and lovingly.

My womb has held 3 babies since Skye, one is with me, one left this world before I even got a chance to process that it had been here, and the third is tucked safely inside as I type, awaiting his entrance into this world from the safety of the womb that held his sister. This picture is actually a recent one and I’m pregnant with Gavin, but somehow it is fitting to use a picture of my (hopefully) last pregnancy to illustrate my very first.

Day 22: Place of Care

Capture Your Grief Day 19: Special Project

They say one of the best ways to find healing in your grief is to reach out to someone who is going through something similar and offer help, sympathy, compassion – in other words, minister to them and you will actually be ministering to yourself. I have found this to be true. I have had the honor of meeting so many beautiful people on this sacred journey, all traveling a similar path. It’s not something you hope for, but since I’m here, I’m glad I have had so many opportunities to love, help, share, and bless others.

This past June I had the honor of embarking on a project that is very personally dear to my heart.

When I first started out on this loss journey, I could not possibly know that one of the hardest things about losing my baby was that I lost all the potential memories we might have made. Those little things like her first tooth, or her first taste of ice cream, or trying to keep her from tearing the wrapping off the presents under the Christmas tree before Christmas, or splashing in a mud puddle after a Summer rain – you don’t realize all the things you say goodbye to forever when you say goodbye to your baby.

Like many other families, I began collecting keepsake Christmas ornaments each year beginning the year I got married. My favorite part of getting a tree and decorating it is not making it picture perfect or color coordinated. My favorite part is putting on the tinsel and remembering the first time I helped my Grandmother decorate her big tree when I was a girl. Its putting on the lights and remembering how my dad used to get so frustrated with untangling all those lights, but he and my mom would work at it, bickering back and forth, and the finished tree was sparkly and glorious. Its pulling those ornaments out and remembering having my little sisters (who are all but grown now) painting little childish designs on simple ball ornaments so we could have unique keepsakes to hang on our first tree as a married couple, or seeing “Champion 2006” and marvelling that it has already been 6 years we’ve been married, or pulling out the little pink and white candy cane and remembering how when everyone else had all but forgotten I was spending my first Christmas without a baby in my arms, the wonderful people at Hearts and Hands had not and they sent a hand written card and that ornament to me in my darkest, loneliest hour, several months after everyone else had gone on about their lives and I was stuck in a Hell I could not escape.

My project has been several years in the making, an idea and a wish mostly, but this year it materialized into “In Memory Of” an ornament donation program. Many people who don’t understand loss, especially child loss, think the last thing you want to do is “dampen the holidays with grieving for a loss” but what so many don’t understand is, we don’t stop grieving. Holiday, ordinary day, everyday, you don’t stop thinking of your baby and wishing for those memories you never got a chance to make. I personally think the holidays are even worse, that’s when you think of them the most.

Each year when I pull out those precious ornaments, its like pulling out the memories, and since I had such a short time to make them with my baby, the few memories I have concerning Skye are the most precious. Since she has died we still get her an ornament each year, or I make one. I do this for all my kids. Hanging them on the tree each year gives me the opportunity to remember and even to make new memories with my family as my kids here on earth begin to learn about the sister they never met, how special she was, and why that makes them even more special to me and Daddy. It is beautiful.

My ornament donation program took off from the very start, showing me that so many other families felt the same way I did. I have cried over tender, heart-felt emails telling me how I have touched them with my work and how I don’t know what that ornament means to them. Yes, they are free, but it is not the cost of the item that is the blessing. Most of my recipients can easily go and buy their own ornaments, make them, or even buy the ones I make that are for sale. I believe the magic is in the fact that someone cares enough to hand make this little token, knowing acutely how inadequate it is to fill the void, yet how beautiful it is to truly care days, months, even years after you have lost your baby, by someone who knows first hand how precious the memories are. The word donation simply means filling an emotional need rather than a financial one.

I have a waiting list for bereaved parents, specifically parents that have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, or early childhood death (basically children 5 and under) because these parents got so little time to make memories, and that is ultimately what my program is about, making and enjoying memories. To find out more about this program you can visit my Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151200439886271&set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3&theater

Ornaments from my “In Memory Of” donation program.

Capture Your Grief Day 18: Family Portrait

This is one of the hardest ones. This has always been hard, ever since we lost Skye. No matter how I slice it, no matter what pictures I look at or choose, we will always have an incomplete family portrait. It is one of many shattered dreams that come with this kind of loss. I thought of drawing a family portrait representing our whole family, I thought of making a collage photo, but it just isn’t the same. There is no 4-year-old girl with her arms wrapped around her little sister or sitting in her daddy’s lap. She is frozen in time as a 17 day old baby, our first baby.

The photo I am choosing for today is one that I think would make her happy if she looked at it. It is the way the world sees us now, seemingly complete, but that is not how we see ourselves. Skye will always be missing, in every picture, at every family gathering, from every holiday – she will always be acutely missed.

Day 18: Family Portrait
Josh, me, Faith, and I’m pregnant with Gavin.

Capture Your Grief Day 17: Relevant Dates

There are several dates each year that are especially meaningful and hard for me.

The first is Skye’s birthday. Since her condition was a complete surprise and everything happened so quickly, there was no celebratory moment when she was born. There was just a lot of anticipation of her getting better or something conclusive being found to shed light on why she had been born with her skin coming off and why she had all the other issues that would surface in the days to come. Of course, when she died at 17 days old, there was very little to celebrate, her birth, the holidays that closely followed her death, anything really, not even the news that we were expecting again, we could barely celebrate that.

By what would have been her 3rd birthday, however, I was beginning to reach a place of joy in remembering her life and I had the desire to celebrate her birthday. That is hard to do when you have no smiling little girl, no balloons to blow up, cakes to make, candles to blow out. I decided the very best way to celebrate her birth and her life was to highlight the legacy she left, inspiration, hope, giving, and Skye Blue. I came up with the Annual Celebrating Skye Give Away on my Facebook page. I could not think of better people to help me celebrate than the wonderful people who support my art, my Skye Blue fans, and I gave out 17 different gifts over the course of the day, one for every day my baby lived on this earth. The only problem was when I thought this up, it was a few days after her birthday the first year, so the first give away was held in October. This year, however, I held it on the 25th of September and it was wonderful to spend the whole day remembering my girl and helping to support other loss families on the journey to hope and healing.

One of the items from the 2nd Annual Celebrating Skye Give Away at Skye Blue by Natasia Champion on Facebook.

The next day that is meaningful each year is the day she passed away, October 13th. This year I happened to be in Kentucky visiting my mom for the day. I had not been to Mom’s since June and it was so nice to have a beautiful calm day, visiting, coffee, and cozy conversation while my 2 youngest sisters played with Faith. My 3 teen age sisters were out for the weekend at school and a friend’s house and Mom and I got a rare day pretty much almost to ourselves. (That doesn’t happen often in that bustling house.) It was so calm, in fact, so sweet and peaceful, that until I got a thoughtful text from a dear friend voicing her support that day, I had forgotten what day it was. This may seem strange, but October 13th, in many ways, has always been an easier day to bear than Skye’s birthday, because the day she died was a beautiful day with a glorious blue SKYE (that’s what I call the perfect blue sky in the Fall) and she was finally at peace and out of pain. Her pain is what had tortured her father and I day after day from the moment she was born. On October 13th, while we bore the weight of the world, our little girl slipped away, lighter than a feather, free at last.

October 15th is the next hard date. I only came to find out just this year that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and the 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For the last 4 years it has also been the day we had the first of 2 funeral services for our baby, then we loaded her little body in its box into our car and drove her to her final resting place, tiny Salem Kentucky. (https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/capture-your-grief-day-15-wave-of-light/ )

My participation in the Wave Of Light Ceremony this year.

The final day that holds painful meaning each year is the 16th of October. 4 years ago on the 16th we laid the earthly body of our baby girl beneath the cold Kentucky soil. We had held her so little already and we would never hold her here on Earth again. (https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/capture-your-grief-day-16-release/ )

This year I spent the 16th doing various things, house chores, art, writing in this blog, but the main event was an impromptu few hours at the park. It’s still pretty green here in middle Tennessee, but the leaves are starting to change and fall and the weather is beautiful. I am 7 months pregnant, I have a 3-year-old that has far more energy than me and I live in a very small upstairs apartment over an insurance agency with no yard. No matter how tired or melancholy I am, I do much better if we get out and at least run some errands. So I took my little girl to the park and took some pictures. I didn’t get the fall shots I was looking for and we are both getting over a rather lengthy cold, so I didn’t go with the usual photographic expectations I normally do, but I still got some very sweet and tender shots capturing the essence of the day.

I could not think of a better way to spend the anniversary of my 1st daughter’s burial than with my babies that are here with me. Here is a moment with my little man.

And of course with my Faith – my sunshine.

Capture Your Grief Day 16: Release

I have never been bodily present for a balloon release in memory of Skye, but earlier this year a balloon was released in her name and one of my child loss community friends graciously took pictures, which were beautiful.

The picture I chose for today, however, represents a release of a different kind. 4 years ago today, we released the earthly body of our first and only child (at that time) into the ground. There was not much joy in that moment if there was any at all. Her short life had culminated in this, being placed into the cold earth in mid October, waiting for the frost and snow to wrap around it instead of our aching arms.

The feeling that day, by the time we made it back to the grave site in late afternoon after they had covered her up, leaving a tiny mound filled with our hopes and dreams and fears, the feeling was complete devastation. There was nothing left to do, nowhere left to go, we simply had to begin carrying on after we left that tiny grave side. You may understand then why we were so reluctant to release her and we hovered around her grave, not many tears left to cry at the moment, just wanting to close our eyes and have it all be a horrible nightmare when we opened them again.

I was 23 years old, my husband was 25. I felt far too young and yet, far too old at the same time. Nobody should have to bury their baby, but especially not when you are that young and full of life and hope and dreams for the future. We were just a couple of months shy of celebrating our second wedding anniversary, just weeks away from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Standing by that grave, holding onto that moment, it was as if we could keep it all from moving forward if we just kept standing there, looking down at the ground. We could just stop time, maybe not reverse it, but stop it right there.

Of course, this was just a fancy, we couldn’t stand there forever, at some point we had to turn, walk away, and finally let her little body go. I snapped this picture just moments before the inevitable moment of release.

My husband Josh at Skye’s brand new grave on October 16,2008.

Capture Your Grief Day 13: Signs

The most beautiful signs I have gotten don’t come from my daughter. She got to leave this yucky world behind on October 13, 2008 and never look back. I would never expect her to look back into this cold, painful world that was her prison while she was here. She has all of Heaven to behold now and I truly hope she has no memory of this life of suffering. We made Skye a promise, my husband and I, as we held her and watched her taking her last breaths. We told her it was ok, she could go, Jesus had given us permission to hold her pain now and we would see her again one day when none of us had to feel pain. I intend to keep that promise, as long as my girl is happy and whole I would never want her looking back here to earth, not for me.

I’m human however, and the ache I bear at times can be unbearable. My comfort has come a few times in signs from my God that He is taking care of my daughter, and me and Josh too, even in our pain. We are not bearing it alone. The most out standing sign I ever got was something that probably seems silly and simple to a lot of people, but I know it was meant for us to see and know that God cares about our smallest worries and hears prayers we don’t even pray.

Our daughter is buried in a tiny town called Salem in western Kentucky, it is where Josh’s family is from for many generations on his mom’s side, and she is buried in the same cemetery as her ancestors. This is comforting for the simple fact that we always go in each year for at least the Holidays and we like to visit her grave when we are in, not because she is there, but because we like to have a quiet time of remembrance and the opportunity for our other kids to hear about and ask about the older sister they never met.

In 2010, we woke up to a white Christmas, something that had not happened since before Skye was born, at least in that town. It was beautiful. We left my mother in law’s house that morning, on our way to visit Josh’s dad, and we planned to stop at the cemetery as was our custom and place a special gift at Skye’s grave, a big pot I had painted for her and filled with an arrangement of artificial flowers I had hand chosen to put in the pot and place at her grave. We had Faith with us, she was visiting the grave for the first time, the Christmas before she had only been 3 months old and it had been too cold to take her to the cemetery.

We were almost there when Josh sighed and said, “I meant to grab a little brush to brush the snow off her stone, I had it sitting right on the table and I left it at Mom’s.” He looked down at his gloveless hands. “It’s ok,” I said, “I’ll pull my coat sleeve over my hand if you’ll hold onto Faith.”

It wasn’t a long conversation, I really didn’t think much of it. After all, it was just snow on a stone, a very trivial thing, but it was important enough to him to mention wanting to wipe it away. When we pulled into the cemetery and got out of the car, he was busy getting the flower-pot out of the trunk and holding onto Faith, I was snapping pictures with the camera. I first saw how beautiful everything looked in the fresh snow. Nobody had marred the ground with foot prints yet. Then as we walked the short distance to her grave and looked, we were kind of dumbstruck. It was a cold, cloudy, windless morning. Every stone nearby had a puff of snow on it – except Skye’s. Even the stone right next to hers that is the same size and height had snow on it. There were no foot prints anywhere but the ones we had just made. It looked like someone had come and wiped her stone clean before we got there, it was still wet, there HAD been snow, but there wasn’t anymore. I snapped pictures as we gazed at this, and we both started to cry. To this day I know it was God whispering to us, “Don’t worry, I am taking care of her and I’m taking care of you. I care about your pain, I am here.”

Christmas morning, 2010, the first white Christmas in several years and here is the pristine snow in the cemetery.

Notice the snow on the other stones, the wreath, the bench – but Skye’s has no snow.

I know my God cares enough even to just wipe the snow from a simple stone. He’s not too busy, He also knows what it’s like to lose a child.

Capture Your Grief Day 12: Scent

When I think of Skye, I think of Fall and Fall has its very own scents. Crispy leaves, spicy baked sweets, crisp outside air, pumpkins, fields of dry corn, subtle earthiness – these all combine to become the signature scent for Fall.

My little girl wasn’t just born in the Fall, her life mirrors the essence of that season; beautiful, the days can be pleasant or very harsh, but mostly it is fleeting. It sneaks up quietly on you until one day you realize Fall is not just coming, it is here, and then just as quickly as it arrived, it is gone and Winter hits you like an icy slap in the face.

Day 12: Scent
Fall scents remind me of Skye.

Capture Your Grief Day 11: Support

There have been many supportive people who have helped me through my grief and loss, especially recently. So many fellow loss moms I have met and who have been wonderful and who are doing this project too. I really have been blessed, for every un-supportive person I have met, I have one that means the world to me and far out weighs the negative.

However, there are 2 people specifically that are especially worthy of mentioning. The first is my mom, Heather. She has walked the road of grief and pain with me long before my daughter died, before anyone else stood with me, back when I was truly alone. She was also physically there at my greatest moment of need, when my daughter made her journey from this world into eternity. (I had the honor this past Spring to return the tender and painful gesture when we watched her love of 31 years, my father, join Skye in eternity.) The days immediately following Skye’s death were special and sacred as she was again there for me to walk with me the very first part of my journey, both figuratively and literally, in the woods of Central Kentucky as Fall retreated and the icy cold of Winter began to wrap its fingers around my very soul. I believe I am stronger now because of her nurturing support during my shattered state, when the shock and numbness kept me from feeling my wounds enough to care for them. She helped bandage my heart and change the dressings, so to speak.

The other person who has been there completely, more than any other person could be, is my husband, Josh. He lost the same thing I did at the same time. His world was touched and shattered by the same beautiful little life in the same way. He was strong when I was broken and lifeless, he held me emotionally, physically, and he never judged the stages of grief I was going through. He kept us going financially right after Skye died, he was the one to go back to work, despite the fact that he was as broken as I was. He continues to this day to support me in being a stay at home mom, knowing that even though we could do a whole lot better financially if I worked, my time with our kids is so much more important to me and ultimately to him. He’s my rock. We’ve been through so much more in 6 years than most people have in a lifetime. We’ve seen the best and the worst, life and death, and he has done his best to be the person I needed him to be at all the different times. We’re all human, its been far from easy and perfect, but the body of work has been support, love, and faithfulness. A woman could not ask for a better man to walk this road with.

Day 11: Support
(top) My mom and I just days after I buried my daughter, on the very beginning of the carrying on process. (bottom) My husband and I this past July, a couple of months shy of the 4th year anniversary of our world shattering. These 2 have supported me in ways nobody else ever could.

Capture Your Grief Day 9: Special Place

Day 9’s subject is “Special Place” and Carly Marie had written ” Day 9. Special Place This could be a place that you visit that brings you peace. Maybe it is a place that you went to when you were pregnant or where your child’s place of rest is.”

Well, I was pregnant with Skye while living in Colorado, I spent the last month of my pregnancy and delivery in central Kentucky, her entire life was lived out in Louisville, Kentucky, she is buried in western Kentucky, and we now live just south of Nashville in Tennessee. Even if there was a place in any of these locations that had special sentiment (which there is not) I live nowhere near enough to capture a shot in any of those places.

So this one was a thinker for me.

I have to say, the most special place, the most healing, peaceful, beautiful place I have is one that I have had since just a month after Skye was buried. It is a place that I discovered by surprise, a place I struggled with at first because I felt I wasn’t nearly ready to go there. It is a place that was given to me as the most precious gift. That place is the love between me and my second baby Faith.

We conceived Christian “Faith” just weeks after we buried Skye. Please believe me and understand that I have no idea how it even happened. (I know that sounds so tongue in cheek.) My husband and I were emotionally broken, our attempts at intimacy were pitiful. How do you enter into an intimate and emotionally charged union when you are hollow and shattered? (I hope this is not too much information, but I feel my grief for my daughter has been very open and public and this is a part of my grief journey.) In addition to this was the fact that we were not trying to have another baby. We had been told that there was a high chance of Skye’s condition being genetic (I believe they told us this simply because they could not figure out what she had and they had to cover all bases.) We were actively preventing pregnancy. There are so many reasons why I should not have gotten pregnant, especially just under 2 months after giving birth to my first child.

However I did, and thank God! In retrospect I have no idea how I would have made it on this grief journey without the joy of my rainbow baby. She has truly been a little piece of sunshine here on earth for my husband and I. As I said in yesterday’s post, when October is over, I will have to write about this special story, it is filled with hope and inspiration for even the saddest heart.

So yeah, my special place is the love, and especially the physical arms of my daughter Faith.

Day 9: Special Place
This is a picture of my second baby girl from last year, but I felt it best captured the emotion I wanted to convey in today’s post. She thinks it’s me who picks her up, but she may never realize that she has always been the one to do the holding.